What makes executive search different? Why invest so much extra care with this hire above all the rest of the positions your organization is looking to fill? Simple. The right executive can literally change the game for your company and your entire business for years to come. While no one ever sets out to get the wrong executive in place it’s all too common that organizations end up settling for an average candidate when what they really need is an absolute rockstar. The problem with settling for average is that the role simply won’t accept it. We’re not looking for a slew of summer interns to go door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions. Executive roles are different and there’s a massive opportunity cost that’s lost if you get the wrong person in that seat. And by wrong I mean not the absolute best.
I may be preaching to the choir here but I want to share some of the specific elements I look for when I’m on the hunt for a game-changing executive leader.
Culture Catalyst: You don’t measure the right exec in terms of pure output… like how much energy you’ll save by purchasing a newer refrigerator or low-flow showerhead. This role is about change, pure and simple, and the ability to affect it across the entire enterprise. This leader is someone who is going to better the entire collective of your organization- from boardroom to break room, and everywhere in between. They have to have that transformational mindset and you need to be sure the kind of culture that gets pushed down the line is the kind of culture that’s going to move your organization to the next level of growth.
Experience over Success. This is a big one. When I interview candidates I always ask them about their experiences, not just what they would call their “successes. ” I want to hear someone’s stories about their experiences, what they’ve done, what they’ve tried, the teams they’ve led, and the failures they’ve experienced. I want to hear about their success stories, sure, but I also want to get a feel for the breadth of their leadership and how they understand their own weaknesses or have learned from their own mistakes.
We Over Me. It’s been said that a great leader is “someone who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. ” I think there’s some real insight in this quote specifically about having a “we ” mindset when it comes to ownership. Rockstar leaders are people that point to the success of others and really see their role as enablers and coaches of teams. Sometimes I talk to candidates who are a little too self-effacing and I have to draw them out a bit but overall a rockstar leader is someone who is very humble and quick to pass on the credit to others.
Inherent Credibility. The last point I want to make about finding rockstar talent is that for all the certificates, diplomas, awards, and endorsements, there is a tangible degree to which the right executive simply exudes credibility… and everyone can see it. They tell stories of success and failure in the voice of someone that has clearly lived through it. They have substance. They demonstrate a credible path of professional history and you can hear it when you talk to them. They have gravitas- excellence without arrogance. You know it when you know and it’s a wonderful thing when you’re able to pair the right talent with the right position.
These are four things I look for when it comes to finding rockstar talent; four things that should be non-negotiable when it comes to getting the right executive into your organization. This is the most invigorating thing I do. When you know what you’re looking for and you see the right fit materializing before your eyes, it’s magic. Don’t settle for average. Don’t underestimate the game-changing power that one person can bring to your organization. Executive search is unlike everything else and the stakes are higher than ever.
If you have a search and are looking to ensure that the right talent is a fit far beyond that resume or CV, let’s talk.